Robert Lund - Man About Town
New York Waste, Nov. 2002
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A while back I wrote a rant about how few people dance any more at live gigs, deploring the "creeping death" that seems to be taking over among rock audiences. Musicians aren't immune to this syndrome, especially when facing static zombie-like audiences. When I see a band where the performers are standing there with only their fingers and lips moving, like action dolls, I turn away unmoved. Think back to rock-n-roll originators like Little Richard, Screamin Jay Hawkins, Elvis Presley. Rock is more than notes and lyrics, it's about physical involvement, about personality! HOWEVER, there is hope, and there are many bands who bring it all together and keep the tradition of body rock alive.
A crowd of lively rockers were treated to one of the finest examples of this at Gigi's weekly "Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame" party at Tapis Rouge on October 15th, where Banana Fish Zero played a stunning set. Their fiery rock music is thrust at us with the help of gyrating bodies, freaky facial expressions, and intimate physical involvement with their instruments. John (lead vocals and guitar), Prince Hal (bass and vocals), and the inimitable Texas on drums show us what rock's all about. Especially uplifting in the intimate Tapis Rouge setting with no stage, playing right into our faces. DJ Ancel rocks the Tuesday night party, with guest DJs in the downstairs lounge.
The very next night, Oct. 16th, was another very special BITCH show at Don Hill's. The crowd was awakened by another performance by SKÜM, lovely lead Fern Burns singing songs of genitalia (male and female, human and animal). Then the king of physical rock, Valhalla rock warrior, legendary heavy metal god Thor blasted us with a set of songs from throughout his long career. Starting with his Body Rock shows in the mid-70s, The Mighty Thor has combined muscle and metal to put on a show of epic proportions. The muscleman employs a plethora of viking costumes, metal masks, hammers and axes to bolster the delivery of songs like "Thunder on the Tundra," "Anger," "Thunderhawk" and "Call of the Triumphant." The crowd screams with clenched teeth and upraised fists (including me, little more than skin and bone!), wildly cheering Thor as he finally bends a 1/4" steel bar while gripping it in his teeth. It nearly approaches the ludicrous, but you can tell the guy himself has a sense of humor about it all. Thor's band matches his furor - guitarist and vocalist Ani with her caricature cleavage, guitarist Mike slashing his axe wildly with a necklace of fingers draped about his neck, a manic bassist with a bat-shaped instrument, and Gunthar the Pounder living up to his name on drums.
The night was billed as a "Battle of the Sexes - Thor vs. BITCH," and the ladies rose to the challenge. I know I've called other BITCH shows the "best ever," but they really do keep getting better, and this one was the tops to date. Not a slacker in the bunch, and Thor was a tough act to follow (in every sense of the word). The rock warrior must've lit a fire in each of every one of them.
I hear so many people moaning in their drinks about how things ain't the way they used to be, there's no rock scene any more, everything new sucks. They long for the "good old days" of Max's, Danceteria, Coney Island High, saying you can't find scenes like that any more. I don't even bother arguing with them, just pity their self-made hell. The rock scene is alive and growing in NYC. It may be harder to pin down a single venue it calls "home" just now, but amidst all the drivel that passes for rock fueled by the music establishment, there are loads of great bands playing at various clubs.
FOR INSTANCE, at the monthly Mullet party hosted by Pete (Bantam drummer) at Meow Mix on October 21st, four great rock bands showed that live rock music is alive and well. The Blood Stained Kings whipped up a frenzy, then Pam the Metal Queen's new band Grounded gave their first performance of hard-driving metal rock. Abby Gennet's SLUNT soars to new heights having added Pat (Gaggle of Cocks) and Karen Curious (formerly with Candy Ass). Finally, Rock City Morgue from New Orleans, headed by Rick Slave (formerly of NYC's Man Scouts of America) showed that New York has no monopoly on great rock 'n' roll. The place was packed with rock-loving souls you won't hear saying "Ain't nuthin to do". It just keeps comin. And the other 28 nights this month weren't bad either!